Frederic Vasseur, Alfa Romeo, 2019

Longer calendar not possible without shorter race weekends – Vasseur

2019 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

Formula 1 must shorten its three-day race weekend format if it is to expand the calendar beyond the current 21 races, according to Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur.

Speaking to RaceFans in an exclusive interview, Vasseur said extending the calendar would create huge costs for teams such as his unless race weekends were shortened.

“If we are taking the direction to do more events we can’t stay on the format to do a three-day event where you have to come on Wednesday evening [for] Thursday morning,” said Vasseur. “At the end of the day it’s just unrealistic.

“We can’t ask our guys or girls two to do 25 weekends of four days. If it’s the case we would have to double the team and it will cost us a fortune. And as a small team we won’t be able to do it.”

Some teams have hired extra staff in order to rotate them between races to share the strain of covering all 21 rounds. But Vasseur says this isn’t possible for every role in the team.

“On some positions you won’t be able to double that position. The guy with the track engineering, you won’t have two guys for the same position. You can do for the mechanics but not for everybody.”

[smr0901]However Vasseur believes shortening the race weekend format could help make the sport more appealing to new fans.

“I think it’s fitting with the expectation of the fans [in] the end because if we want to attract new fans probably a bit younger we need to change a little bit the approach.

“They won’t stay two hours in front of the free practice. I was able to do it when I was 18 but my children are not able to do it.”

Can Liberty Media deliver its regulations package for 2021 in time and get all 10 teams to agree to it? Read Dieter Rencken’s analysis today in his new RacingLines column on RaceFans.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2019 F1 season

Browse all 2019 F1 season articles

Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

Posted on Categories 2019 F1 season articles, F1 newsTags , , , , ,

Promoted content from around the web | Become a RaceFans Supporter to hide this ad and others

  • 15 comments on “Longer calendar not possible without shorter race weekends – Vasseur”

    1. As someone who has not watched a free practice at least since the hybrid era began, I can safely agree with his point that nowadays, there simply isn’t any demand for it outside of an ultra-hardcore fanbase.

      Since most of the preparation for a weekend is done in the simulator regardless, we could do away with a lot of practice without causing complete anarchy in the grid order.

      My suggestion would be a 30-minute practice on Saturday morning, followed by qualifying and a 30-minute warmup on Sunday morning, followed by normal race. That way teams and drivers still have track time, there might be a shot at a team failing to iron out the rough edges creating chances for minor shakeups performance-wise and we can do with a day less.

      1. The problem with a 30 minute warmup before the race is that you would have to get rid of the Parc Ferme regulations which force teams to start the race with the car that they qualify with.

      2. Your forgetting about the fans that do actually enjoy watching FP1/2 and mainly the fans that pay hundreds of dollars to go and see these wonderful cars live. Event organizers will continue to ask the same price for gate tickets then you give them less F1 viewing. I’m sure that formula will pack out the already thinning grandstands.

    2. I’ve pointed out this before and will do it again: The current race weekend format is perfectly fine, so no need to alter it. Furthermore, attendees would get less track action for their money, and it’d also perhaps be a bit useless to travel, for example, all the way to somewhere like Australia for the sake of only two days of track running. The current weekend format isn’t broken, and the current number of races most definitely is more than perfect from the POV of all the aspects be it revenue/income, exposure of the sport, anything, so no need to go beyond that figure. Anything from the range of 19-21 (where the number of races has varied during this decade) is perfectly fine for F1.

      1. @jerejj
        I agree and was about to the say the same. Vasseur is correct in talking the demands of the team members, it would be too much for them. But for the punters attending the race weekend they get less F1 for their money. Friday has most F1 time with 3 hours and I think eliminating it makes it less likely people will travel to watch a race weekend.

        I have been to Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Spain and Monaco to watch F1 races, if these were just two days I think its much less likely that I would travel overseas to do so. In Australia its a 4 day event, but no F1 on the Thursday and I like the build up to the FP1 on Friday.

        I like the current 3 day format for the fans but it does get hard for the teams ‘for sure’.

      2. Two day weekends are a great idea. Have the testing on Saturday; qualifying and then race on Sunday.

        The people these demand more action to stay involved. Look at Football, NBA, MLB, they have at least 1 match a week for every club in the league, sometimes multiple matches in a week. F1 needs to have a race weekend, every weekend and remove the summer break! It makes no sense. Also shorten the winter break and have more wet races, as long as it’s not snow and ice, we’re good!
        Lastly, make three ‘special weekends’ in the calendar for Indianapolis, Le Mans and Monaco, where no races from the normal leagues are held so every driver can compete in each one each year and you’ve got your hybrid race calendar set. If as a driver you’re not competing in these three events you can take those weekends off and have a nice in between vacation, if you can’t already call every weekend at some exotic location a race vacation already…

        1. @sihrtogg ”F1 needs to have a race weekend, every weekend and remove the summer break!”
          – I assume you’re joking, but just in case you’re actually serious: Clearly, you haven’t been working in F1 or at least not in a role that would include travelling to all the races. Racing every single weekend and not having the traditional four-week gap around halfway through a season would simply be an impossible task for the teams. Just too inhumane to work in reality.

    3. I hate the idea of a 2 day weekend because I hate the idea of reducing practice.

      I love watching the practice sessions as it’s the only time during a weekend where you can actually just watch the cars, Switch between the various OnBoard feeds & analyze/compare how cars are handling, What drivers are doing differently in terms of lines, input etc…

      You can’t really just sit back & watch/enjoy the cars during qualifying or the race as your paying more attention to lap times, Who’s in the knockout zone, race standings, gaps, pit strategy among other things.

      I also don’t see less track running as a positive for fans who attend the races. A 2 day weekend certainly makes me see it as far less value & therefore makes me far less likely to attend. As a fan I want to see the cars running for as much as possible over a race weekend, Especially around circuits where just watching the cars is a thrill.

      And on top of all that I really don’t like the idea of more races been added, I already feel that 20/21 is too many. As more races have been added I feel that each one has started to feel less special & more routine which is never how it was in the past when each race felt like a big event that was special.

      I’ve also found that as we have gone to 20/21 races i’ve just started to zone out over the last 2-3 & just look forward to the season been over so I fear that adding more than 21 will just result in me totally losing interest by the end or maybe even just skipping a few races which is something I never thought i’d ever consider even saying.

    4. i said this in another discussion on the subject of reducing practice/dropping friday running… it’s a horrid idea for those who actually want to spend money to goto circuits to watch the cars.
      When I attend a circuit during an F1 weekend i’m there to see F1 cars & want to see them doing as much running as possible.
      Reducing F1 practice & therefore the opportunity for paying fans to see what there paying to see should not be an option!!!
      If they were to end up reducing practice running I would simply see attending race weekends as less worth my time/money.

      and here is something maybe many do not think about, especially those who don’t attend races. practice sessions offer an opportunity for you to walk around the circuit and watch cars from different areas. for example when i attended the belgium gp some years ago our seats were on the grass bank alongside the kemmel straight which is a nice place to sit to see cars whizz by at 200mph. however during the friday practice sessions we also walked to and got to see cars go through eau rouge & pouhon so got to see the cars in some of the more impressive corners.
      with no friday running and less practice on saturday we wouldn’t have been able to do this because with qualifying and races you want to be sat down by a screen and paying attention to the action rather than walking about so taking away the prospect of doing that is a massive negative imo.

    5. I’m not even sure going to a two-day weekend would avoid the need to double-staff the racing teams (which would cost several million pounds a year), especially since there is a notable decline in viewers on a typical year after the first race following the 4-week August break. (In years with a more definite direction for the championship, such as last year, this starts before the summer break). This suggests that people nowadays have trouble maintaining enthusiasm for more than about 15 rounds in a season given the current state of F1. It would be a non-issue for F1 TV Pro, as that’s trying for annual specific subscriptions and I’m not sure if that income is shared with the teams the way broadcast revenue that is from TV/radio broadcasters is… Adding extra rounds simply means fewer viewers and less payments, particular for monthly/race-by-race viewers, hopefully (for the teams) to be compensated for by more venue sign-on fees. It’s already the case that a lot of the non-team professional F1 followers don’t do every round either.

      However, I’m still not seeing the evidence that Liberty can actually get the new venues in order for this to be a major issue. Remember 5 circuits’ contracts are due to be signed this year if they’re to continue to 2020, so they’d need to have 6 venues (new or re-signed) ready (we’re still waiting to see if either Hanoi or Miami is viable) in order to advance on the current 21, and Brazil may be difficult to tempt back into a paying contract for 2021, meaning yet another track needing replacement or a difficult negotiation simply to tread water.

      Furthermore, a track that is signed and then discovers that 1/3 of its running won’t happen is going to want 1/3 of its money back, unless it can fill that with high-rolling alternative series. So although Australia is unlikely to complain (it’s able to fill 4 days of festival, regardless of how much track time F1 provides), the likes of UAE, China, Azerbaijan and Vietnam surely would. This is a a particularly big problem since these are the sorts of venues providing the bulk of the hoped-for replacement income for losing viewers due to month-by-month apathy. This makes me think that there is a natural limit as to how much time resource Liberty will be able to exploit this way.

      A better path might be to have a 16-race “main series”, backed by regional subsidary series using previous years’ F1 equipment (I’m thinking 1-3 years old, not “historic” old) that teams can optionally enter and/or delegate to trusted customers. Drivers could choose to compete in them or not, according to their schedules, testing would be available for teams that didn’t use the cars in the main series and all allocations would be distinct from “main series” F1 (within reason, they’d be configurable by whoever was promoting each subsidary series, which could be, but wouldn’t have to be, the FIA itself).

      The regional series could provide interest in “slack” parts of the year, content for Liberty, separate championships that people can follow and not feel they need to invest an entire year to understand, opportunities for different mixes of drivers and staff to compete together and perhaps even a smoother path from junior series to F1 for teams (I expect the “F1 subsidary” series to cost a bit more than F2 but rather less than main-series F1). Contracts beyond F1 TV could be separately negotiated, since it might be more financially efficient to not put all the content on the same channel, and allow people to see F1 who otherwise couldn’t.

    6. Get rid of these two tests & there is an extra 1-2 GP’s just there ;)

      1. Good formula. Give us your $200-1000 and we will show you less time F1’s driving over the weekend.

    7. It seems to me it is essential for teams to be able to prepare for races like Melbourne because of the long hiatus between the end of last season and the start of this new season, and again after the Summer break. One option would be to have the current format followed by several races with say a one or two day format. So, for example, Melbourne would have the current format, and then Bahrain, China, and Baku, would use the shortened format. I realise the shortened format will mean less days for fans to go to the track to just watch cars doing practice and such like, but for many fans that would be an even bigger commitment than just attending a race, so attending the whole weekend isn’t an option for them. Don’t they have things like F2 support races on at the same time? Maybe there could be other events on over that weekend to entertain the fans who want to spend several days attending the track. So, for example, say a local racing series on the Friday, F2 on Saturday, and then F1 on Sunday.
      The biggest advantage of the current format is it gives all the teams a chance to ensure everything is ready for the race.
      I think the biggest problem I see with a shortened format is if someone crashes their car, that would almost certainly ruin their race, so reducing the time between Qualifying and the Race also reduces repair time.
      If they were to use a shortened race format then I do think it would be better if the Qualifying format was changed so there’s less cars on the track at any one time.

      1. @drycrust i don’t attend an f1 race weekend to watch f2 or local categories, i’m there to see f1 drivers in f1 cars and want to see as much of that as possible.

        silverstone tried running f2/gp3 on thursday a few years ago and virtually nobody turned up, the friday f2 races at monaco also hardly draw a crowd and the few standalone f2/gp3 weekends have also never drew many to the circuit because while we appreciate having them as a bonus over an f1 weekend you won’t find many that would goto a circuit just to see them so if you dropped f1 practice on friday and just had non-f1 cars on track i doubt many would turn up.. i know i wouldn’t because it’s not what i’ve paid to see.

        you already see stands emptying before the support races are up on the saturday as soon as f1 qualifying is over and there usually well under half full by the time the final saturday race is starting. and its the same on friday, as soon as f1 practice ends most leave. again nothing against the lower formula but it just isn’t why people are there.

    8. They should keep the race weekend format as it is. We really don’t need more than 20 races in a year. If spaced evenly that’s enough for a race every 2 weekends and 3 months off-season.

      Yes some countries will have to lose their Grand Prix but that should be based on the quality of weekend that circuit provides in all areas (racing, prestige, other entertainment/support categories, amenities, travel, etc.) to ensure only the best of the best locations and circuits are included as it should be.

      I just think it’s the wrong way to go about F1 for it to be the travelling circus that will do higher frequency shows of lower intensity as this article suggests in whatever city will have them.

      If it means some tracks have to lose their races then so be it. Only have the highest quality and those that will pay the most to be counted among them. It means tough decisions with high standards and Liberty should employ the most qualified and knowledgeable to make them.

      Track selection is just as an important part of F1 in my understanding as technical regulations.

    Comments are closed.